Every year as the end of the ski season approaches, I’m filled with emotions of guilt and regret, knowing I didn’t take advantage of every opportunity. Confronted with the choice to seize every adventure as the days near May, plans are made in an effort to pacify the un-attainable goals on the seasons “hit list.”
Two years ago at the beginning of the 12/13 season, my good friend Willie Nelson had thrown out the idea of an end of season build on Stadium Jump. Stadium jump is one of the most prominent and infamous natural jump features located in the Devils Castle at Alta Ski Resort, and is well known for its lofty airtime and the legends that have graced it. Willie’s idea stemmed from a curiosity to build a pre-jump on Stadium… something that couldn’t be executed within the boundaries of the ski season.
In a waning effort to search for content with our ending season productivity, we agreed the adventure was necessary! Not only for the accomplishment of a goal, but most importantly the celebration of a great season with quality friends! In early May last year, Willie and I set off to build our own twist on Stadium Jump, camping and enjoying one last adventure before our seasonal departures.
After convincing none to join our adventure, we carried 80lb packs and hauled 120lb sleds via shoestring behind our waists to the basin near Stadium. After one of the most grueling and exhausting challenges I have faced, we took a brief moment to drink a warm PBR and gather the motivation to begin cutting 30lb blocks. Finally our plan materialized as we finished the construction of our jump with the arrival and help of a half dozen friends the following day. By this point Willie and I had moved a few tons of snow and both gave adequate consideration towards our safety if we decided to hit the jump in our state of delusion! Thankfully our well rested friends added considerable energy to the gathering and the clouds cleared for a great sunset… ensuring an epic and memorable jump session.
This season proved no different as the days and months flew by, leaving us with only one week to organize and execute an even more successful “Camp the Castle” gathering. With a large contingency of interested participants, this year’s gathering appeared promising. Throughout the approaching days, we were confronted with weather complications. However, based upon mutual time constraints, Willie and I had to aim for a small weather window on Thursday May 8th. Our promising turnout had almost guaranteed the natural progression of the gathering, but instead the weather was predicting a different story with the headline, “Willie and Wetzel’s Wild Weekend of Wonky Weather.”
With that idea subconsciously lingering in the minds of many, Willie and I were destined to another solo mission. Regardless of the outcome, we were hell-bent on one last adventure…writing a proper conclusion to another great season! Fortunately in our favor another good friend (Alex Foley) joined our adventure the night before. Instilled within our minds from last year was the trauma of our heavy gear, and with that knowledge lighter packs were certainly in order. After loading our packs with *only* 70 lbs. of gear, Willie and Alex made a trip to Evanston Wyoming to provide the missing fireworks, which would consume the vacant pack space with an additional 20lbs each.
Thursday morning we arrived at the Summer Road. With waves of heavy snowfall we quickly helped each other load our packs and proceeded to take our first steps (questioning our motivation and commitment to such adventures). After a few hours of grinding, we reached our destination and eagerly set up camp as the clouds began to part. We soon discussed our options for the day, and with the variable weather outlook we concluded to forgo the jump and enjoy the late season POW instead!
To our surprise we were soon joined by one more adventurous soul (Jarret Smith) before we decided to make our way to the saddle of the Castle. After skinning to the saddle, we casually enjoyed the rare winter scene, and made our way down the freshly blanketed slopes of the Devils Castle. With a few fireworks to celebrate the great skiing, we decided to hit Stadium Jump a few times based upon the principle of our adventure.
As the evening progressed another beautiful sunset unfolded and any disconcerting thoughts had vanished. Our enthusiasm was vivid, and soon a hot meal was served with an even warmer feeling from the bottles of whiskey that were opened without hesitation. Day quickly vanished, and our night commenced with a barrage of fireworks and high fives that echoed off the enchanting walls of the Devils Castle. Upon waking the next morning, our tents were blanketed with another 4” of fresh snowfall. We quickly packed up camp, eager to ski down with the remaining taste of the inappropriate consumption of whiskey and good times the previous night! Originally we planned for two nights and multiple jump features, however it was clear as we skied out… there were no regrets.
This spring, as the leaves darken and the days lengthen, I hope you’ve all seized the opportunity to celebrate the end of your ski season with a much needed adventure! It has been a week since our adventure in the Devils Castle. Willie and I are content with our season and we hope you are to, because it won’t be long before we’re all sliding around at Alta once again!